Trigger Warnings

Some of my posts deal with rape and that means that bits of this blog may be triggering.

Friday, 1 June 2012

How I became a rape victim

I've been thinking about this recently, because rape has been in the news so much.  Ched Evans, the twitter hate campaign against his victim, the I Believe Her campaign in response, the girls in Oldham who were groomed and raped... and the discussion about why they became rape victims, what it was about them which enabled a bunch of misogynist predators to exploit them so viciously with so little awareness of their humanity. What was shocking to me was that anyone was bothering to discuss what it was about the girls that made them rape victims, re-inforcing the notion that rape only happens to certain sorts of women.  It's a very strong idea in our culture and one which keeps rape victims in denial about their experience and ensures that they don't face up to what happened to them for weeks, months or years in some cases, because their image of themselves, doesn't fit in with the image they've been fed, of a rape victim.  So I want to talk through the step-by-step process of how a woman can be set up to become a rape victim and how that has nothing to do with her and everything to do with the man who decides to rape her.

I was eighteen years and four months old, so officially already an adult woman.  It was the summer holidays before the start of university and independence.  We'd all got our A Level results and were sorting out university places and someone at school had a big party in a church hall, a present from her parents for doing well in her A Levels and being eighteen.   I wore my new dress of blue velvet, the possession of which I felt, placed me in the realms of the cool people.

Early on in the evening, I was talking to a friend when a boy came up to me and kissed me. I say boy, I suppose I mean man, but I still thought of male peers as boys. (He was 19 by the way.)  Without warning, without comment, he just grabbed me, held me close around him so I couldn't move and thrust his tongue into my mouth and kissed me.

I found this repulsive and startling, yet Bohemian, exciting and off the wall.  I had no idea who this guy was, had never seen him before in my life, knew immediately that I didn't fancy him, but it didn't even cross my mind to question his right to simply overstep any normal boundaries.  It was a party.  Men were supposed to behave like that, as far as I knew. It would have been uptight, prudish, strait-laced, to object. No-one had told me that only rapey men behave like that, normal men who fancy you but don't have a sense of entitlement, don't just grab you in that way. I ran off giggling with my friend, who was slightly perturbed by his behaviour and with hindsight, probably by my reaction. "He was wierd", but I was too excited and naievely flattered that I'd notched up an "I've got off with someone" mark so early in the evening - it meant that a man had noticed me and that was something to strive for, wasn't it - it's what women are socialised to do - strive for positive male attention.  It meant I could be in that group on Monday morning, who had got off with someone on Saturday night.  I'd never been in that group before, I felt like I'd arrived.  I'd grown up in a family where my personal boundaries, privacy, self-determination, had never been respected, so I didn't find it as much of an intrusion as my friend did.

For the rest of the party though, I deliberately avoided him because although his behaviour had given me access to the cool group, I didn't fancy him and found him pretty repulsive and didn't really want to repeat the experience of the kiss.  I occasionally saw him watching me, intently, and I saw nothing sinister about it. I had no suspicions, no sixth sense, no spidey feeling that warned me that this man was a sexual predator. How could I have?  I grew up in a society where the Impulse ad was on the telly- a man grabs a woman at a station and snogs her and no-one calls that sexual assault, they said that "Men just can't help acting on Impulse".  That was the slogan.  So when a man did that to me at a party, I didn't think it was a sexual assault, I just thought it was some unattractive chancer who was behaving normally.  The whole of my culture and upbringing, told me that.  Besides, I found out he was the brother of someone in my class, someone I fancied to be honest; someone I was rather hoping to get off with at some point, but I figured that this bloke might have ruined that for me tonight.  People's brothers were OK, you didn't need to worry about them.

It took me years to realise that that kiss, had been a set-up: that the reason he had targeted me in that way, was to ensure that later on, if I complained about being raped, he could point to that and have lots of witnesses saying that we'd been seen kissing earlier on at the party. That way, he could be absolutely sure that he'd get away with it, because as everyone knows, once a woman kisses a man, he then has the right to penetrate her body whether she wants him to or not.  I heard later on, that he'd kissed another girl in exactly the same way.  So he set two of us up, but she was the one who got away.

When a bunch of us left in a big group to walk down to the cab office, he was in that group.  As we walked along he sidled up to me and started talking.  I talked back out of politeness.  Women are socialised to be polite, to respond to men's conversational overtures, even where earlier on they may have over-stepped a mark, we're supposed to put it behind us and move on and not think anything of it.  So that's what I did.  I conformed to normal behaviour and talked normally to him.

Without really knowing how it happened, I realised we were somehow falling behind the rest of the group.  At first it didn't worry me.  They were in sight, it's just that we were far behind them now.  At one point I said something about it and tried to catch up with them, but he pulled me back.  It was at that point that I suppose the victim-blamers will say that I should have screamed, shouted, cried for help.  Because it was at that point I should have realised he was planning to rape me.  But I didn't. Because I was also taught, that to assume that a man is a rapist just because he's stopping you doing something you are showing clearly that you want to do, is hysterical, man-hating, hairy-pitted feminism which is a Bad Thing.  And so once again, his boundary-breaking behaviour, didn't really bother or alarm me as I didn't perceive it as boundary-breaking, I perceived it as normal.  Women's boundaries are constantly being broken by men and we are told all the time, that if we make a fuss about it, we are unreasonable, unfriendly, rude, hysterical, difficult, confrontational - all negatives, all things we should strive not to be.  So if you are young and have never been raped and don't know how common it is and you know that your boundaries are supposed to be broken because that's what society has told you, you don't feel alarm when a man breaks them yet again.  In my case, I felt slight irritation, but nothing more.

When he pulled me back, he drew me into a doorway and started to kiss me.  I resigned myself to the prospect of having to snog him for a bit before going to get my cab, because it didn't occur to me to knee him in the balls and run away screaming from him, as some will say I should have done at that point; if I had done,  doubtless I would have been accused of hysterical over-reaction, but seeing as how he was bigger and stronger than me, that wasn't an option anyway.  Every now and then, we carried on walking and he would draw me into another doorway and kiss me some more.  Little by little, we were getting closer to the cab office.

One little doorway turned out to have a little alley way next to it.  Before I'd even noticed it, he was pulling me down the alley, laughing conspiratorially as if this was my idea too, drawing me into his "naughtiness".  Even then, I didn't feel threatened.  Even then, I didn't expect this man to rape me.  Why would I?  He was someone's brother, not a rapist in a dark alley... oops.

Right up until the moment he actually pulled my knickers down and I felt his penis, I genuinely had no idea he would actually rape me.  Even as he entered my body, my main emotion was utter incredulity.  I simply couldn't believe this was happening.  This repulsive man had somehow separated me from my friends, dragged me down an alley and was raping me. And I'd bloody co-operated, I hadn't made a fuss, I'd gone along with it, I'd just let him do it. I felt total disbelief.  And I felt bloody stupid.  Like so many rape victims, I blamed myself for not spotting that he was a rapist and extricating myself from his rape, instead of blaming him for being a rapist.  I lay there and waited for him to finish, hoping it would be quick so that I could get home.

Afterwards, he asked me if I was OK and then asked for my phone number.  I gave him it, too stunned to know what else to do.  He then walked me to the cab office, "so that I'd be safe" (!) and said he'd call me.

All the way home, I thought about whether I'd been raped or not and like many rape victims, convinced myself I hadn't been.  I felt like I had, but I told myself what society would have told me - that I was wrong and unreasonable to feel that way, I hadn't said no, or at least, if I had, I hadn't said it strongly enough, aggressively enough, I hadn't fought him off, I hadn't resisted being pulled down the alley, I hadn't resisted at all. Except that I had resisted, just not in a way that society defines resistance.  Society has allowed rapists to define what resistance is: screaming, crying, scratching, pushing, kicking, biting, punching.  I didn't resist like that.  My resistance was to wriggle a bit, turn my head away when he tried to kiss me, try to stop his hand going into my bra and knickers, push him ineffectually, talk about wanting to get my cab; all things which normal men recognise as not being enthusiastic participation when they are engaging with women but pretend it's a grey area when they talk about rape.  Rapists have managed to get society to believe, that what I did, was consent. Because I didn't resist in the way rapists - and society - say that women should resist, they define our non-participation as consent. (More about why consent has been constructed to enable rapists to get away with rape here: http://herbsandhags.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/whats-wrong-with-consent.html)

I hadn't treated him the way society says women treat rapists, I'd treated him the way many women actually treat rapists - like a bit of a nuisance who have to be tolerated for a bit. I'd been socialised to believe that you just had to put up with men touching you when you didn't want them to.  The one time I'd seen a woman react furiously to such treatment, everyone laughed at her and said how over the top she was and how unreasonable when he didn't mean anything by it.  So I'd absorbed the message, that to treat a man who was acting like a rapist as if he were a rapist - the way society tell us to - was to be an hysterical, unreasonable bitch and you lose approval ratings if you're one of those, don't you, so like most young women, I'd buckled down to that message.  It's what women do.  And then society tells us that it's our fault we were raped, because we didn't do the thing they call us hysterical bitches for, when we do do it.  I didn't act like the unreasonable bitch everyone had laughed at when he first overstepped my boundaries, so it was my fault he raped me.

And besides, I had had a couple of beers (although I wasn't drunk) and I was wearing a short, skin-tight blue velvet dress.  The blue velvet dress which had marked me out as belonging to the cool crowd, also marked me out as the sort of woman who doesn't have the right to "cry rape" when she's raped. The police would just tell me it was my fault.  My friend had been raped when she was 14 and they'd told her to go away and stop wasting their time. She had been legally a child and I was legally a woman and she'd been dragged into a park by a stranger - the classic, rare, stranger rape, not someone who was someone's brother and therefore couldn't possibly be a rapist. And even then, they weren't remotely interested in catching the man who raped her or investigating the case at all.  So I knew there was absolutely no chance, that the enforcers of the law, would be remotely interested in enforcing it in the case of a grown adult in a blue velvet dress.

I even felt guilty about allowing the thought that I'd been raped, to cross my mind. Like most of us, I'd absorbed the lie that women "cry rape" (that phrase that means women habitually make false allegations about rape) and that there are millions of wronged innnocent men walking around having had their lives ruined by hysterical, man-hating women who imagined that they'd been raped because they're so stupid, or deliberately lied about it out of pure, unbridled malice.  The horror that I might be one of those women, made me feel pity for my rapist and shame that I could even think such a thing about the poor man.  I had no pity for my eighteen year old optimistic, rational, honest self; society had brain-washed me so effectively, that all my empathy was for him, none for me.

When he called me two days after the rape to ask me out, I said yes immediately.  Mainly because I was afraid that if I didn't go out with him now, he would tell everyone what a slag I was, fucking him in an alleyway, but also because if I went out with him and was his girlfriend, then that meant it couldn't be rape, it would all be OK and I would stop feeling as though I had no control whatsoever about what happened to me with sex. I wanted to have sex with him in a normal way; in a bed, with me having some choice over it.  It would mean that he hadn't raped me.  It would make that Saturday night OK, the beginning of a romance, not what it still felt like - an attack on my autonomy.

I found him utterly repulsive, boring to be with and I couldn't wait to get away from him, but I went out with him for 3 weeks to make it respectable and all OK in my mind and then I told him it wasn't working out for me and I thought we should stop seeing each other.

When we parted, he kissed me, put his hands down my knickers again, just to show me that he could, and said to me "have a great time at university and don't sleep with anyone you don't want to".  When I assured him I wouldn't, he said: "you already have".

I couldn't believe what he was telling me.  He was telling me, that he was a rapist.  That he knew he was a rapist. That my three weeks of boredom and bad sex with him, had been wasted. It hadn't been him being a bit drunk, not understanding my ineffectual wriggling away, not realising I didn't want to have sex with him;  he knew it wasn't the "grey area" of rape myth. I was so startled that my immediate response was to deny what he said.  "I haven't - I never have".  He smiled.  "Yes, you have."

Again it took me twenty years to realise what he was doing there.  He was taking away any semblance of control or dignity I had.  He wasn't willing to allow me the pretence that it had all been a big misunderstanding, that I'd tried to go out with him afterwards and see how we got on but it hadn't worked out; he wanted me to know exactly what he'd done and that he'd got away with it with my connivance and there wasn't a single thing I could do about it.

It took me twenty years to face up to that.  In those twenty years, my immediate response to him raping me, was to leave me with a fatalistic attitude to sex; I felt totally unable to set any boundaries.  I felt scared to tell a man I didn't want to have sex with him just now, or just here, or like that, because I couldn't take the risk that my wishes would be over-ruled again and I would have to face the fact that I'd once more been forced to have sex I didn't want and that would prove that I was one of those women who were somehow designed for men to use and exploit, not like normal women.  So I had lots of sex I didn't want, with men I didn't like, who didn't force me to have it but who didn't much care if I wanted it or not, to prove to myself that an unwanted fuck was no big deal and not worth getting upset about.  I went through phases of celibacy lasting years followed by phases of one night stands with men who were of no interest to me whatsoever.  I suppose it's fair to say that it pretty much ensured, that I had a totally screwed up attitude to sex without realising that that's what I had.

All that time, I only once tried to tell someone that I'd been raped.  Two friends at university.  I read an article about date rape, which presented the revolutionary concept that rapists aren't necessarily men in balaclavas with knives in dark alleys, they're just men who make you have sex you don't want to have.  This revelation shook me so much, that I told a couple of friends about what had happened to me, but both of them suggested that I write him a letter saying how I felt - their primary concern was to ensure that I didn't call it rape,because obviously it couldn't be (like most women, it was more important to them to protect a man they'd never met from being called a rapist when he was one, than it was to acknowlege the rape of a woman who was a friend), it was just a misunderstanding (I had blocked out his parting shot so hadn't told them about that) and that he would want to reassure me that he hadn't meant to seem rapey, it had all been a big misunderstanding and then I'd feel better.

I did think of doing that, but something told me that he'd get off on a letter like that, so I left it and never told anyone else about it for another couple of decades.  Like most rape victims, I was effectively silenced.  What silenced me most, was the dread of not being believed.  The knowledge that I would be asked: "but why didn't you shout?" "why did you let him separate you from your friends?" "why didn't you tell him to stop kissing you and to go straight to the cab office?" "why did you give him your phone number?" "why did you go out with him afterwards - even sleep with him afterwards?" "why didn't you tell your friends what had happened?" All the questions I asked myself for a couple of decades.  Even now as I wrote this, You, Dear Reader, will note what care I have taken to try and explain my behaviour, to pre-empt the questions and criticisms and scepticism.  To do what rape victims are always required to do and rapists rarely are: to account for my behaviour, to explain why I became a rape victim.  The explanation: "because I was unlucky enough to meet a rapist" will not do, I know.  Society doesn't want to blame men for making the choice to rape women, it wants to blame women for enabling men to make that choice and usually it succeeds. Rapists very rarely get to accept responsiblity for their choice to rape, even rape victims blame themselves for their rapist's choice to rape them. .

I'm done with accepting that blame.  It was not my fault.  I didn't do anything to make him do it. My fabulous blue velvet dress was not responsible.  The fact that I'd had a couple of beers was not responsible. Even my abusive childhood, with its failure to inculcate self-esteem, was not responsible. Because I went out with him afterwards and had what society calls consensual sex with him a couple of times, doesn't mean it wasn't rape that one time.  Because I didn't behave the way rape victims are supposed to behave (more on the image of rape survivors/ victims here: http://herbsandhags.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/youre-not-like-rape-victim.html) doesn't mean it wasn't rape. Because I spent between two or three decades feeling unable to tell anyone in case they wouldn't believe me, doesn't mean it wasn't rape.  It was rape, he is a rapist and I am a rape survivor.  And the fact that neither of us behaved the way society says rapists and rape victims behave, doesn't mean it wasn't rape, it just means that society has got to stop misinforming the public, about what rape is.  Society keeps selling us the version of rape that rapists have invented: the one which enables them to carry on raping women and know that they will get away with it.  We keep on making excuses for rapists, convincing their victims that they have no right to call it what it is.

For years I blamed myself for dating him afterwards, knowing I hated him and found him repulsive. I could never understand, why I'd done that to myself, why I'd thought it so necessary. Why had I punished myself like that?  I blamed myself for handing him power over me, the power to penetrate my body again when he knew I didn't want him to, the power to pretend that he wasn't a rapist, because his victim had gone back for more. Now, I blame the society which convinced an intelligent, popular teenager, that the only way to make rape OK, would be to date her rapist.  It's nearly 30 years since that happened to me and society is still blaming women for rape, instead of blaming men.  My daughter is facing the same dangers I faced: a 25% likelihood that she will be raped or sexually assaulted in her lifetime.  If that does happen to her, like her mother, she's statistically unlikely to report it - only 10-15% of rape victims file a report.  If she does, she's got only a 6% chance of seeing her rapist found guilty in a court of law.

When it comes to rape, not much has changed for women in nearly three decades.  I guess all I can do for her, is to raise her to expect her boundaries to be respected, to make her aware of how common rape is and to let her know that if she does get raped, it won't be because of anything she says or does or wears, it will be purely and simply because she has the bad luck to meet a rapist.  And for all the other girls and women out there, all I can do is speak out about my own experience and raise my son to know that if he is not sure a girl or woman wants him to carry on doing whatever it is he's doing, then he needs to ask her and respect her answer, because if he doesn't, then he may be a rapist.  Because rapists aren't usually scarey men in dark alleys, they're someone's son, brother, father, uncle, cousin, friend, colleague. Somewhere out there, the man who raped me is probably raising a family and living a normal life, like most other rapists.  And he's probably still pretending that he's not a rapist and society is still supporting him in that.

And that's how I became a rape victim.  Thanks for reading.

168 comments:

  1. I just wanted to say well done on speaking out. And I'm so sorry this happened to you.

    I believe you.

    Frothy

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  2. This really made me tear up. I bet all women could see themselves in this, even if some wouldn't admit it *hugs*

    You're brave to share. Thank you.

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  3. thank you for sharing you/our experiences. So many similarities,your words helped me make sense of my own feelings reactions thought processes then and now. So amazing to feel justified
    . I wrote a much more in depth emotional reply initally,but my techonophobia helped me loose it into the cybersphere.
    It was cathartic but sadly those words are for now lost so I'll just say yhanks again and hope it will let me post it this time x

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  4. Lulusmam, I'm glad it helped and that's why I wrote it. So that other women who are trying to make sense of their experience, might be able to take something out of that and know that it's not abnormal or mad or stupid or all the things we tell ourselves it is.

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  5. I remember the first time I told someone about the time my boyfriend had sex with me even though I said no and asked him to stop. I said "I should have told him sooner, I shouldn't have gone out alone with him, I shouldn't have said we could have sex once I was 1...." She said: "C, you were raped." I was utterly dumbfounded. I had never even once thought of it as rape. I had thought it was totally my fault for not fighting more. Even though he held me down and ignored me when I told him he was hurting me and to stop. Just being able to name it as "rape" was incredibly liberating and set me on the path to recovery. I was in so much denial.

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    1. sorry, that should have said "once i was 16."

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    2. I'm sorry that happened to you La Anxieuse and glad you recovered. I think our culture encourages women to be in denial about the rape they are subjected to, because then it stops us demanding accountability from men for their violence against us. You're right, the first step in recovery, is to name it. Best wishes.

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    3. Having read this post, I'm in tears.

      You have so effectively described how spousal rape, or rape by a partner/friend/acquaintance feels that I felt you could pre-empt my own thoughts.

      I have never, ever seen sombody describe what I've felt and am still feeling so accurately. It took me several years to name what happened to me as rape, and the minute I accepted that name for it and started to use that name, I started to heal.

      I agree with you completely about society's perceptions on rape, rape survivors and the expectations that are on women with regards to men.

      I can't thank you enough for posting this. I can't express how sorry I am for what happened to you, but at the same time, knowing that other people can feel exactly how I feel makes the situation more acceptable to me. It feels like I'm not alone, all the doubt and blame and guilt I felt was wrong.

      This one blog post has helped me more than several years of counselling, and for that I can do nothing but thank you from the bottom of my heart.

      I'm only 23 and have my whole life ahead of me. Thanks in part to this blog post, I'm going to make damn sure that I live it to the full and never allow my past to define my future.

      Again, thank you so much. You're an inspiration. You really are. <3

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  6. That was incredibly powerful and relevant to read- it resonates with me, a lot. I'm really sorry you went through that. I want you to know, though, that I'm going to read your post again to my 16 year old daughter and use it as a springboard to talk to her about all this, so that hopefully she will get wised up to the rapist dynamic and be able to help herself, instead of being ambushed by confusion. Thank you, so much.

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    1. Glad to help Bee! I think the myths our culture has about rapes, is in effect, whether intentionally or not, supportive of rapists and therefore very dangerous for women; if we can tackle a few of the rape myths, we make the world safer for our daughters and less easy for rapists.

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    1. SkinnyMelonBiris, I'm glad my post has helped, that's why I wrote it. I hope you continue to take the steps that lead to you being able to recover from this. Good luck.

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  8. I am so sorry this happened to you, and glad you've since been able to come to terms with the fact that what happened was a) rape, and b) not your fault. I think it's horrendous that society teaches "don't get raped" as opposed to "don't rape" - it seems completely backwards to me, and shifts blame from the rapist to the person who has been raped.
    Thank you for writing this.

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    1. I agree "don't get raped " is like framing it in this inevitable way like its just waiting to happen & it's your job to manage to avoid it properly . Like we're in control of it happening or not happening .

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    2. Yes, if women could be in control of whether they get raped or not, nobody would ever be raped.

      Men control whether we get raped or not, by choosing whether to rape us or not.

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  9. I was a date rape victim at 16 years old, and I was in denial about it for a very long time. When I finally told someone I called a friend, she laughed at me then proceded to tell the whole school that I told her I'd been "raped" by my boyfriend. I was then known as "attention seeking" for quite some time. I was a virgin and had planned on saving myself-- something he knew well in advance.
    Shortly after my father told him to never speak to me again (on terms of mental abuse, not rape because god forbid he find out and try to press charges.. no one would believe me- it would be public humiliation) I was the victim of sexual harassment and abuse by my one of my teachers for the next 3 years of high school.
    At the end of my senior year, after the school had known about it for over a year, he was charged with 3rd degree rape and I was used to testify to lock him behind bars, but only for a short 7 years.
    I am still dealing with that lawsuit, 2 years later. The suffering has not yet stopped, I've merely learned to numb the feeling and try to move on.
    I am now 20 years old, and I have the opposite turnaround as you-- I can't and will not have sex. I don't think I will ever be able to trust a man again.

    Your post is incredibly close to my heart, as I can relate to nearly everything you've spilled into text.
    I am strengthened by your ability to write a post about what it is truly like to suffer such a dramatic physical violation, and what society believes (or a lack thereof) about rape and rape victims.

    I'm tired of society blaming women. I am tired of rapists getting away with such a disturbing crime; that of stealing a woman without her permission, and in my case-- my innocence.

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    1. Jade, I wish you all the best with moving on. Be good to yourself and only move at your own pace as and when you are raedy. Good luck.

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    2. Jade, I know this probably sounds simple minded, but if there's a Rape Crisis Center in your area you can call them and find out where you can get some help in dealing with all your feelings, the betrayal, and your understandable trust issues. They might recommend individual counseling, group therapy, or some combination. You select what, if anything, you want to participate in. It might help, the phone call can't hurt.

      Herbs, Thank you for a powerful column! I want to send it to a high school friend who was raped at 12, a virgin then, and went through much of what you've described re: casual sex and one night stands. I was terrified for her safety! I think that it many ways it further destroyed her ability to trust others, men or women. I was one of the few friends she had growing up, and decades later she's still repeating the same behaviors. It's tragic. She's smart, funny, beautiful, and feels unworthy of love. For her, the rapist was one of her older brother's band mates. She never once considered reporting it. It would have shamed her brother!

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  10. Reading this, was the first time I felt... not alone; the first time I felt that the pain and emotions I have suppressed are valid, legitimate, and real. I can relate to you on every level, I have suppressed so much, more than my closest friends know; and now it's all at the surface again, and it hurts. And I still make every excuse. Thank you for your words, so eloquent, honest, and laid bare. They really helped me be honest with myself in this moment, and not listen to the excuses I used to pardon what had happened to me. I don't know where to go from here, but it's a better place than I was in.

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    1. Eva Marie, I'm glad you're in a better place, but I'm sorry you're hurting. Are you in the UK? If so, would it help you to call Rape Crisis? 0808 802 9999, they're there from 7PM this evening.

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  11. my first boyfriend at 18 made me kiss him and I didn't realise it was wrong because I'd never been out with anyone and I thought I was being weird. I didn't want to kiss him but he moved my hands away from my face and kissed me. I was giggling nervously and I thought it was ok. Later on in our relationship I wasn't sure about him touching me, and I really didn't want to touch him at that point, but it happened anyway, he moved my hands onto him even though I was really trying not to let him, but he was stronger than me. It was a muddle because I really liked him and I didn't know what was normal in a relationship, so I went along with it all for a year. There was a lot of love between us, but after our relationship ended I realised that there was a lot that had been wrong as well and I felt incredibly angry that I had been an idiot not to see it.
    But then I felt angry that society had let him down because the sad truth was that he thought his behaviour was normal and society had let me down because I thought it was normal as well. I'm not defending him, because I'm still very angry with him, but I know that he didn't just wake up one morning and decide that women were a commodity. The way society as a whole looks on male/female relationships is warped, and that affects both sexes and we need to educate men and women what is and is not respectful and acceptable behaviour and what they should and shouldn't accept from people behaviour-wise. Your article is helping this education, so thank you for posting it.

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  12. Thank you for putting this into words. I am not a rape victim myself but I have found myself many times in that grey area where anything could have happened, and I was not comfortable and I did not feel safe. And I recognize everything you are talking about, the way we conform, go along, think the best of men, push our boundaries, give up our own perspective to protect the dignity of a man who doesn't care. I do not think there is a woman out there who doesn't understand exactly what you are talking about. If I had a teenage daughter I would make her read this. Many times.

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  13. And I think talking about this is the only way to stop the guilt and the shaming of victims. What you decribe, that could so easily have been me. My 19-year old self probably would have done exactly what you did, said what you said, wore the dress you wore, behaved the way you did. Because it is normal behaviour for women. We are socialised into this.

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  14. wow, this is strong! thank you so much for sharing! it made me cry what you experienced but more than all it made me so angry that our surrounding societies tolerate and encourage rapist behaviour.

    but anger is the starting point to change things: rape culuture has to be overthrown!!! warm greetings from germany!

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  15. I experienced all this denial & justifying behaviour after being raped & it destroyed my life . So insightfully written thank you !

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  16. I was raped alone in a foreign country. I went along with it to avoid being bashed up & taken to Gaol . It took years to uncover what had happened as I'd had a psychotic episode , started drinking and trying to forget tried to become normal . As I feared when I told someone they couldn't cope & didn't know what to say , so I thought it didn't matter . Wound up drinking every night in an anusive relationship , trying to 'right ' things I was so angry I would smash things . I was in need but became a scapegoat 'crazy', slagged off by people & isolated . I became anorexic - trying once again to manage everything in my life . Things are better I live alone sober & am exploring life slowly . I hate society & still get angry. It's important to tell people to get fuvked & hit them if so required & that took me until getting raped to learn . Being "nice " is such bullshit .

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  17. Thank you. I'm going to make my younger sisters read this.

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  18. Thank you for this article, it sounded like it was one of those grey areas to start with but the guy was a bit ultra creepy. But the bit where he said don't have sex with someone you don't want was so chilling, the fact he knew went along with your pretence then snatched your dignity away.
    We need to learn more about consent, be more supportive to our friends and teach men not to rape rather than how not to be raped, as the way society sees it at the moment is whack!

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  19. This article is amazing, and I truly think every female should have to read it. It brings up so many issues we face as women, and though I've been extremely lucky to never be sexually assaulted, I related and felt so much of the ways we are "not supposed" to communicate from my past. You are an excellent writer, and I'm going to follow you on here. I'm so sorry you had to endure this sleaze and have him haunt you and your actions over the years. I hope putting your story out there has been therapeutic, because it seems like you're already providing comfort with your words.

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  20. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart

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  21. you are brave and eloquent! thank you for sharing your experiences and journey. let's continue to support and fight for those who are not as brave and eloquent as you and continue to blame themselves and perpetuate victim-blaming.

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  22. Well written. I know it is hard to talk about rape and open yourself to the scrutiny and judgement of others. I never talked about my experience for that reason. It was my high school boyfriend. I said no. I pushed him. I cried the entire time. And when it was over he said everything was 'okay'. Two months later I had an abortion. Rape scars you. It left a mark of violation on my past. It made me distrust the whole notion of dating and being in love. And it left me with a big secret. That feeling of powerlessness can't be shaken even right now thinking back on that night. Thank-you for writing and calling attention to the injustices, scrutiny, and stigma that rape victims face. It is time that we put the focus on the rapist's motives and actions, not the victim's.

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    1. Thanks I really relate . I'm free finally from an abusive relationship 7 years ago I literally thank god each day .

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  23. Thank you ... I've been reflecting recently on some stuff that happened in the first year after I'd left home over twenty years ago. The conditioning, the not knowing really whether it was rape or not, thinking that was just the way it was and then the decent in to hard partying to pretend to myself that I didn't care or was unaffected by some encounters. Bless you for your brave words. Hx

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  24. I am sorry you had to go through this. Have you thought of reporting the person to the police, all these years later? The reason I ask is because he may have attacked other people in the time since he attacked you. Nowadays there are rape cases tied up years after the event, thanks to DNA matching. What if this man has attacked others and not yet been connected to his DNA sample? Pleased give some thought to reporting him to the police.

    I am not religious but hope for some higher power to bless all you ladies who have been through similar things (reading the replies). I can't begin to imagine what you have all been through.

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    1. werehere I have of course thought about reporting him to the police. But there have been a spate of cases here in the UK, where women who alleged rape but couldn't get a conviction (in common with 94% of all rape victims - only 6% of reported rapes end in a guilty verdict) have then been charged with perjury or perverting the course of justice, even though there is no real evidence that they were lying about rape; seeing as how 94% of all allegations end in an acquittal, even though only about 2-6% are false allegations, that's an awful lot of rapists walking free and an awful lot of women who now risk being accused of perjury or perverting the course of justice - and being jailed for it - if they report their rape. I just can't take that risk. I suspect that this is a deliberate policy to discourage women from reporting, to be honest and it's working.

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  25. Thank you for writing this.
    I did something similar in the late 1980's, only I married my rapist.
    Somehow being his wife, made it not rape.
    He beat and raped me for the 4 years we were together, including the 3 years of our 'marriage'
    I could never call it rape, because somehow I felt like I'd asked for it, I was young, dumb, no self esteem, and he told me no one else would ever want me because I'd been in a car accident and had scars and a limp, and sometimes talked funny because of the skull fracture and brain damage.
    I believed him, and no one ever ever asked me if it was what I wanted.
    Thank you for being brave enough to write this, You've helped me be brave enough to write what I've written just here.

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    1. Thanks I really relate .

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    2. I'm so glad ou're no longer his wife.

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  26. Thank you. It is too often that we victims keep silent because we are afraid of our perceived guilt in the case; which is absolute nonsense. There are too many men out there allowed to move forward with their "normal" lives while we remain quiet, concerned, and torn up, dealing with it every day. Thank you for sharing your experience. Thank you

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  27. Thank you for writing this. I just had my 13 year old daughter read this and when my now 10 year old son is a little older I will have him read this as well. I hope to teach both of my children to practice enthusiastic consent when they are ready to become sexually active. I wish more parents would, and teach their children to respect others.

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  28. I just want you to know that your post should be required reading for every student graduating high school. At every commencement ceremony this article should be read aloud so every student can take at least one extremely important lesson away from school. I wish so strongly that more people were aware and cared more so your story doesn't become the story of a quarter of all teenage girls; so it doesn't become the story of anyone else ever again. Thank you so much for sharing this, we need more people to be this strong.

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  29. Thank you so much for writing this, you've helped me make a lot of sense of something similar that happened to me.

    My mother, seldom though her company was, always made sure to tell me that I was inferior to her in some way. She pointed out that my boobs were smaller, or my ass not quite so round, etc. My father contributed to my self-image by sexualizing every woman he ever saw. "Look at the tits on that one!" was a daily thing I heard when driving around town with him, or watching TV, etc. I'm genetically predisposed to be fat, and I love food, and I hate exercise. So, to put a bow on it: I hated myself because I felt my like appearance was substandard, and the only worth a woman has is her appearance. I grew up feeling worthless.

    At sixteen, one of my best friends (cuter, more popular) had recently lost her virginity to her serious boyfriend. I felt the need to catch up, I didn't want to be left in the dust since my friend was my ticket to the cool crowd. However, I didn't have a boyfriend or even a date. With my friend, I regularly attended cool parties and regularly acted like an easy drunk girl - trying desperately to prove my attractiveness to anybody willing.

    Just after my sixteenth birthday I attended one such party. There was a guy there that I didn't like; he was expelled for some stupid stunt in middle school that happened at my bus stop. He was a bit of a wanna-be thug and a juvenile delinquent, and although I partied, I maintained good grades and a job, and never got into any serious trouble.

    This particular evening I behaved as I usually did - drinking to excess, smoking pot, smoking cigarettes and just trying to be the coolest person I could be. Admittedly, I got too drunk. I have bits and pieces that are missing in my mind currently, 11 years later. However, there are certain things I remember distinctly. I remember sitting at the dining room table, bleary-eyed drunk and clumsy as the party wound down. I remember the jerk from middle school, lets call him Smith, offering me a Heineken. Next he offered me a Camel cigarette, and I accepted thinking "this guy is cooler than I remembered" and we walked outside. I remember sitting down and him lighting my cigarette, and then next thing I remember is waking up in that chair, fallen cigarette by my shoe, with my pants down, and his fingers inside me. We were still on the back porch, and I could see kids leaving the party inside. At this point, I thought how unexpected the evening was turning out, and that I didn't like the way things were progressing but also, I had to lose my virginity sometime...

    I allowed him to have sex with me, I even went so far as to insist on condoms. He walked to the nearest 7-11 and returned victorious an hour or so later. We went upstairs, had bad sex that I only half remember because I was black-out drunk, and he left me, bleeding and sore, to go sleep at his friend's house as the sun was about to rise.

    The following Monday, I walked into class and a boy said to me: "I heard YOU raped Smith on Saturday." I was aghast! Not only did the school know I had lost my virginity, but Smith was so ashamed of my appearance, he told anybody that would listen that he passed out and woke up with me on top of him. I was assaulted by him, but then I permitted him to have sex with me. If I cried rape now, after I made him walk for condoms, no one would believe me and I would lose serious cool points.

    So I did what any normal, self-hating popular girl would do: I made a joke of it. And I've been making jokes of it ever since. But the reality is that I lost something precious that evening to a jerk I didn't like. I hated myself and so I allowed an assault to turn into consensual sex. I went down in high-school history as the fat girl who raped Smith, all because I was too drunk to defend myself at the right time, and too stupid to see that I was worth more than "I have to lose my virginity sometime."

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    1. Morgan I'm so sorry that happened to you.

      I hope you're OK now.

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  30. I am a male in my late thirties. For me, an unenthusiastic kiss, a turn of the head, an unresponsive body shout as loudly and clearly as 'no' and 'stop'. Men have to learn that consent comes in many forms.

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    1. LOL Richard, that's because you're not a rapist! Men already know that consent comes in many forms, but the ones who choose to rape, ignore the forms that those of you who don't choose to rape, recognise clearly as non-consent. Then everyone else goes along with them and pretends that their claims to not have understood that it wasn't consent, are reasonable and believable. I've done a blog post about how problematic the concept of consent is here, if you're interested:
      http://herbsandhags.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/whats-wrong-with-consent.html

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  31. What an amazing article & responses . Thanks to all its helping me to heal a lot - especially the relationship I got stuck in with some 7 years after the rape . He strangled me & punched me & people were always saying I was "highly strung " , "over emotional , psychotic " I still loathe the idea of ever living with a man again I see it as a hostage situation - which is ignored & condoned by most of society . I thank god everyday no man is holding me hostage & I don't need to have sex with anyone to ' prove to myself I'm ok !

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    1. Zola, really glad you are recovering and getting your life back together.

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  32. I was sexually assaulted by an old friend of mine a few years back. I told myself it was my fault-- I went into his room alone with him, I let him rub my back, hell, I even undid my bra so he could give me a better back rub. He didn't quite make it to penetration, but he rubbed himself against me, pulled my pants down, stuck his penis in my butt crack. He touched my breasts. I asked him to stop, he didn't. I was afraid if I was loud or yelled or hit him, I would lose a friend. I WAS AFRAID I WOULD LOSE A FRIEND. To this day, I have trouble letting go of him, of actually saying it is what it is for fear that someone will shake their heads at me and say "you deserved this." The truth is, mutual friends of ours have insinuated I "should have known better" because he was kind of sleazy. I guess because I trusted a friend and was naive, I should have expected that he would try to force himself on me.

    Anyway, this essay was incredibly powerful and so honest. Thank you for this.

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    1. Enchanted, what your friends were insinuating, is that they believe the man who tried it on with you, was a rapist.

      Because otherwise, why would they expect you to expect him to rape you?

      It was not your fault that you didn't anticipate your friend being a rapist; it is quite extraordinary that some of your mutual friends thought that he was a rapist and THAT WAS OK!

      You didn't deserve it. I hope you believe that.

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    2. thank you so much for that. <3 i appreciate that more than you know.

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  33. What you have written is so powerful. I have copied it (and the link about consent) for my 17.5 yo step-daughter. She is planning on leaving home at the end of the year and is somewhat blinkered and naive to anything that doesn't come into her mind of its own volition. I also have 4 boys, aged 2-11 and I will be keeping these for them to read at an appropriate time in their lives. Thank you.

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  34. Thank you for speaking out. I believe you. I don't doubt a word you've said. I'm so sorry that happened to you. I hope your column will help other women. You are an amazing & brave person.

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  35. You have helped me so much.

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  36. Wow. What a story. Even with someone who was practically a stranger in a dark alley, society still holds onto it not being rape. It being a misunderstanding. Disgusting.

    I dated a guy for almost a year and a half. I was constantly pushing away his hands and advances but never to succeed. Often I gave in and said "but hurry because I'm tired". I thought that was ok. He just had a high sex drive. We never had sexual intercourse so I blamed myself for his inability to control himself. He would joke that if I broke up with him, he would rape me because it "really wouldn't be fair" to break up without having sex. He constantly told me that he loved me and wanted to marry me. We broke up when I was 17. Over a year later, he came over and forced oral sex on me. I went and talked to my beloved pastor, who told me it wasn't a sexual assault (despite being tied up and begging him to stop and having my mouth pried open). I felt shame and guilt, blamed myself and went on my way.
    After having a break down in a doctors office and having a break down while talking to a different pastor (who told me it was rape and he has no idea why the other pastor said it wasn't - the other pastor did know my relationship with the boy better and consented to society's opinion that a boyfriend you have messed around with in the past is something you always allow)... I went to a counselor. She called it rape, despite it not being sexual intercourse and said I needed to call it that to myself.
    Soon after, I found out my ex was now dating someone new (I was 20 at this point) and had a panic attack. I defriended him on social network sites and he confronted me via text asking "when this is going to be over". I told him I was dealing with the 'truth' and when he asked what I meant I told him - "What you did to me, idk if you know it or not... it was like... kinda rape". (This is when my panic attack begun, actually, so I called a friend). He responded, "I know".
    Those two words have stayed with me and I thought of that as I read this. As I read the confrontation of your rapist.
    I didn't know it was rape. But he did. And he didn't care. He still thought I should just "get over it". He knew I'd never be able to press charges because it wasn't the legal definition of rape, let alone the fact that it was my ex-boyfriend and ETC ETC ETC.
    He knew.
    That still shocks me more than anything else.
    He knew and he didn't ... think it mattered.
    That text conversation ended with me telling him to stop acting like a victim and him replying "I could say the same to you. But I guess you really are a victim". Thankfully for me, at this point I was sitting with my friend at a place open 24hours at 1am and he talked me through the next hour. (Ironically enough, it was my sexual abuser's ex-best friend. Who is an amazing man that got me through all this crap and is still my friend and ALWAYS respected me 100%).
    Sorry for writing so much. I think my tumblr followers are getting sick of hearing about it as I struggle through my constant triggers.

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    1. jaymie, talk about it as much as you need to.

      All these people who defend rapists, who want to believe that it was an honest mistake, who really don't want to condemn them because maybe they didn't mean it, it was a grey area, blah di blah - and all the time, the men who rape women know exactly what it is and they are trading on the compassion and willingness to give them the benefit of the doubt, to enable them to get away with rape.

      I've done a post about the idea of a grey area and how helpful it is to rapists because it fuddles our brains about rape. Have a read if you think it might help. http://herbsandhags.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/reason-so-many-rapists-get-off-is.html

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  37. Thanks for writing this.

    I still can't help feeling like it was my fault. Can't help feeling so guilty.

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    1. lifeofa, it wasn't your fault.
      Someone made a choice to do this to you and you are not responsible for what he chose to do.

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  38. Thank you thank you thank you, although I have never gone through the same experience I thank you as a woman. All of you who shared your stories are AMAZING and your commitment to figuring out the truth about your experience ended up helping others along the way. Stay strong and true ladies, the rest of us need you!

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  39. This reminds me of my own story, and how many don't call it rape because I was in a relationship with the guy, and therefore "obligated to have sex whenever he wanted". Thank you for speaking out, people need to be reminded that rape is a crime committed, not something that was "allowed" to happen.

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  40. This entry has given me some new insights into how I and others dealt with my assault nearly 20 years ago. I got caught in the "once you've agreed to sleep with him you can't change your mind, especially if you already have a reputation" trap. I never talk to anyone about it anymore, and I've just realized that it's because I'm tired of having to explain myself. Hearing someone else say "If he rapes you, It's not because he was drunk, or you were drunk, or you didn't fight back hard enough. It's because he's a rapist" has made a world of difference to me. Thank you.

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  41. Thank you so much! Prior to reading this article, I had avoided talking about rape, just because it felt so remote and terrifying. It struck a chord with me when I realized that, as I am about the same age now as when you were raped (18 yrs, 4 mos), there is no question it could happen to me. Thanks to your article, I can question my own boundaries and views about victimization in a healthy way, and although rape is still scary, I can confront it rather than hide from it.

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  42. I love this blog post, thank you so much for writing it. I facilitate a project called "And It Was Wrong" (www.anditwaswrong.com) and I'd like to link to your blog on my facebook/twitter profile, if that's OK.

    There were many parts of your story that resonated strongly with me, but for now all I can bring myself to say is "thank you."

    --Rachael

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    1. rachael feel free. your site looks really good I have linked to it on the I believe her facebook page

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  43. Thanks so much for posting. I found myself in a very similiar situation a few years ago, and until now have never been able to figure out how to articulate what happened and why I behaved the way that I did after. I can't wait to share this with others. Thank you.

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  44. I want to thank you for posting too. Currently I'm researching fairy tale/fantasy stories and have come across romanticized awkward situations such as stalking and kidnapping. I've also noticed that women in stories are personally threatened more often than men for the reader's thrill in any genre. I started blogging the harm in these stories, and will keep these wrong perceptions in mind for my own stories.

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    1. Your blog sounds interesting Maria, I'd like to read it. Will you do a link? Thanks

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    2. My blog is on stories in general. The stuff I mentioned are my current blog posts. Thanks for the interest. http://storynaud.blogspot.com/

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  45. Thanks for writing that post. I had something similar happen to me about ten years ago with someone I knew. I had walked over to his house to hang out and have a couple of beers. He had drugs there, I got high, and was afraid of getting arrested if I walked home since it was about a 3 mile walk. I felt like I was trapped and that I had no one that could pick me up. I used to blame myself for putting myself into that position. I even told a drug counselor what had happened and she just looked at me like I was crazy. I also confronted him about it and he denied it. I never bothered going to the police about it figuring that they'd just laugh at me and say that it was my own fault for putting myself into that position.

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    1. You were probably right to make that judgement secretz. I hope you're OK now.

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  46. I was raped last May. I had gone out with friends to our usual club and was excited to be going to see a friends band there. I had a fantastic time. Being a single woman, I often went out armed with condoms ready to "pull", but that night I was condomless and in high spirits- it was all about friends and the band. I was spiked. I don't know when it happened-whether it was in the club itself or when I went into the takeaway. I watched the band, had a dance with my friends then felt really tired. I said my goodbyes and went across the road to the takeaway (as I did everytime, it was part of my going out ritual) and ordered my food.

    The man behind the counter had flirted with me on a couple of occasions before, he held no interest for me whatsoever-he was just the man that served the food. He was annoying but I was always polite and bantered back in the 5 minutes it took to get my food ready.

    This time I needed to use the bathroom, so I asked him where it was and he said he'd show me. That's the last thing I remembered.

    I woke up the following day(in my own bed) and had a broken toe, bruised and swollen knees, a gash across my bottom and finger marks around the tops of my arms. I'd been penetrated both vaginally and anally. There was semen all over my skirt and dirt marks down the front of my corset. There were texts on my phone from him (he'd put his own name and number into my phone) saying "we had great time, good sex", "we see each other again yes?".

    I cannot tell you (and don't really have to, from reading your account above) how horrified and totally terrified I felt. The first thing I did (ever practical) was go for the battery of tests to make sure I was OK. Then I went to councelling. The thoughts that went through my head were crazy..."Did I say yes?...it's possible", "Did I encourage him?", "Did I flirt with him too much?", "Why didn't I insist he at least wore a condom?...I'm always so careful". Then not being able to remember anything was pure torture-exactly what happened? How did my corset end up like that? Was I conscious for any of it? What happened to my toe and knees? How was the gash made? Did I hand my phone to him? Did I chat to him afterwards? Did I fight?

    The thing is, I'll never know these things-my memory is probably never going to come back from that night and I've accepted that now.

    In October last year, I found out he'd been fired and the shop had closed down and had new owners in. Half of me was happy that I'd never have to see him again and the other half was terrified-because now he's not confined to one place-he could be anywhere.

    On New Years eve I went back in for the first time. I ate my food sat at a table. I walked up the stairs and stood in the room (I had a memory of an orange room-the only detail I had) where it happened. I made peace. I'm not a victim, I'm a survivor.

    God bless you

    Sam x

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    1. If you had his name and semen (DNA) why not go to the police and get him punished?

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    2. James, 85-90% of women (in the UK anyway) do not go to the police, because they know that rapists aren't punished, their victims are.

      Only 6% of the 10-15% of rape cases which are reported, end in a conviction. While most women may not know the exact numbers, they know that their rapist is more than likely to walk free and that they will be trashed.

      Only a tiny minority of women are willing to face those odds and until the police, CPS and courts start dealing with the appalling rate of non convictions, it's not at all unreasonable for most rape victims to not go near the police. It's not just that there simply no point, it's just that the whole of the system is geared up to re-victimise us and we know that.

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  47. Thank you Thank you Thank you for sharing your story. It should be read by all young women everywhere.

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  48. Thank you for writing this, it's a very powerful message. I've never been raped, but I was sexually assaulted by two of my friends. Afterwards I pretended to be fine with it, never mentioned it again, and I continued being friends with them. I still try to make it seem like it wasn't a big deal! Even though they held me down, hurt me, and touched parts I don't permit anyone to touch. I screamed and I struggled but it was still a joke to them.

    I never mentioned it again because like you wrote, society doesn't teach us that our boundaries are supposed to be respected. Right after it happened I was so agitated that I tried talking to a mutual friend and they just laughed in my face.

    It's unbelievable how many people experience things like this; just reading the comment section here makes me sick. There is definitely something wrong with our society when this is accepted. Once again, thank you for writing this.

    (P.S. It worked out eventually, I have no contact with them anymore and it's a relief to accept that what they did was wrong and disgusting. That is also my only sexual experience ever - the thought of being intimate with someone now is upsetting. Still, it's been two years and I'm fine.)

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    1. I'm sorry that happened to you Beatrice, that's awful. Please don't feel that you need to pretend it wasn't a big deal, men who are supposed to be your friends, showing you that you are not really their friend, just a woman, ie slightly less worthy of friendship than their male friends, holding you down and assaulting you, is a big deal. They could see it as a joke because they don't take your humanity seriously. Your mutual friend doesn't sound much better either, laughing at you rather than listening to you. Could that be because s/he was so shocked that s/he didn't know how else to react, or is it because s/he is a bona fide nincompoop?

      You don't need friends like that. You need friends who know you are a real human being and value and respect you.

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  49. The timing of this article could not have been better. A friend raped me while I was drunk a few months ago and I only recently confronted him. He reacted very aggressively and asked me if I even knew what "that" was. I know breaking my silence was the right thing for me but I can't help but be angry with myself too because now I've lost my friends.

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    1. Chutes, you really don't need friends who support your rapist against you.

      There are millions of good people out there, male and female, who will support you not him. You need to be friends with some of them.

      I hope you're OK.

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  50. As depressing as it is, rape has pretty much always has been silently accepted by "society". If you take a peek at laws in most countries since they've written them im almost certain that you will never find one that is clearly giving a chance to women to be heard, respected and compensated for the tragey that rape brings in their lifes. The ways we have left to survive with this fact are only silence and shame. Can this very society change this?? I have no idea about that... Somehow i am under the strong impression that whatever women will do to claim their right to be respected the men powers of this world will do everything to ridiculize it, save time over the question and end up doing noting about it while distilling everywhere (in media, education and culture) the efficient poison of sexual identities propaganda. What is there left to do then? Rape victims are trying to find a way to be respected - I hope will all my heart that there is a way.
    I personally think that if we cant solve this (stop women being raped) with the ways that are "normally" given to women, we might have to do it the men's way. What is the men way? Agression. You can notice this also in all the ways they conduct their affairs in economy, war, industry, health system, etc.Its all about having enough power to be able to attack and win. Like in rape: if they believe that they are strong enough to have a women physically unable to resist, that gives them a good reason to try it if they already have no moral boundaries. And then, they probably know also that the women is even most likely not to resist physically, even if she could inflict some damage, because he knows, like you show it to us all in your testimony that a women doesnt "normally" use her physical force to attain her goals.
    I am seriously wondering if the only way to avoid rape (the act itself in individual cases and not the social reality of rape) would be to put the rapist down before he can even stick his tool out from his pants. I mean, to be able to punch, kick or submit the guy as soon as you know his intentions are seriously not what you want.
    Wouldnt it be a a start if every women could physically defend herself at the best of her capacities? wouldnt a rapist that have been beaten by a women think about it twice before doing it again? Would it be nice to know that your friends have some basic defense skills that may help them resist?
    But all this needs a lot of mental work, too. To be able to do so we have to ask ourselves if we accept to use physical violence and all that comes with it. Well because we have silently accepted if for ages being the main and most victim of it, but will we use it? Or will we find another way to prevent this story to be repeated?

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    1. I understand and appreciate what you're saying but I think resorting to physical violence is stooping to their level. The majority of women do not know the men that raped them were rapists before hand!

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  51. Thank you so much for writing this.

    As a dad of two young girls I have of course considered the risks of rape, but mostly from the stereotypical "stranger in the park" point of view. This article and the responses to it terrify me...

    The overarching theme seems to be the in-ability of a woman to simply assert herself without stigmatization. That coupled with the long term effect that not doing so (and then justifying not doing so) is absolutely horrifying! It also seems that there's a worrying power balance against women too: On the one hand you've got the guy who has nothing to loose by trying it on and pushing the boundaries (and perhaps even rewarded for doing so), and on the other there's the woman who risks being labelled as high strung, frigid, uptight or any number of other pejorative terms simply for asserting her rights.

    If I may ask you and your readers a question... How do I prepare two little girls to navigate this path? How do I teach them that it's absolutely, definitively their right to say no to not only the sleazy scumbag, but also to the nice boy that they like and are worried about pushing away?

    Thank you once again!

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    1. "How do I prepare two little girls to navigate this path?" I never had a father who cared, so I can't tell you for sure one way or another. But I have heard about daddies who take their daughters on "daddy daughter dates" often. They open doors for them, pull out their chairs, bring them flowers, ect. So when the daughters get to the age where they want to date, they know how they should be treated. This isn't going to protect them from strangers, and it's not guarenteed to protect them from anyone. But. It can't hurt.

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    2. boothead, I would say that the way to make sure that your girls hook up with decent men, is to be a decent man. How do you treat your girls' mother? The way you treat her, shows your girls, how they can expect to be treated by men when they are grown up. I'm a firm believer that we get what we expect in life, not necessarily what we want. If we're lucky, what we want and what we expect is the same: so in short, you are already teaching your girls what to expect from men, by how you treat their mother and the other women in your life. If you treat them with respect, kindness, friendship, love, then that is what your daughters will subliminally expect from a man. If you don't, they'll expect whatever it is you are showing them to expect.

      What is more important, is that parents of boys teach their sons, that the absence of no is not enough for sex; the presence of yes is an absolute pre-requisite. Even if you teach your girls to say no and be assertive, that will be no use against the sons of those who do not teach their boys, that it is not acceptable to over-rule or ignore a girl or woman's boundaries; no amount of teaching our girls not to be raped, will be as effective as teaching our boys not to rape.

      I wish you all the best with instilling self-esteem and assertion in your daughters. :)

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    3. My father is an excellent role model, but I still ended up in an abusive relationship because I thought my father an exception to the rule to be honest. I let my abusive boyfriend slide on a lot of things because those were the "quirks" he came with, and I wanted to satisfy him because he "saved" me from something about me that was truly messed up. I was in denial that doing the one really great thing doesn't excuse all the terrible things.

      What truly saved me was learning about what consent could look like, the concrete differences between a healthy and unhealthy relationship, what any partner should be able to respect. If someone doesn't respect "no," that is a DEALBREAKER. I needed to discipline myself, unlearn the crap, and make nonconsent a dealbreaker. I also had to up my standards of what consent looks like and establish those standards verbally with my partner. This is what consent will look like for me. I needed to establish with him that nonverbal is not enough until I say it is okay to touch me or kiss me without asking. For a long time, he always asked before even kissing me, and he was not burdened by it! So now I feel all men can follow this standard, too. I should always feel safe to take away consent, and if I don't feel safe to say no, that is also a dealbreaker. It is extremely hard to be assertive about one's sexuality in this society. So sex-negative men is also a dealbreaker, who would assume having a preliminary consent talk means I think about sex too much that I have it all worked out how I want it. And finally, of course, healthy vs unhealthy. Jealous, possessiveness and entitlement were considered romantic, but those are actually unhealthy. This means I might not have a partner any time soon "like all the cool kids," but the difference will be that when I do, I will have a respectful, consenting partner on my terms.

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  52. What about "I Believe Him?" Why the focus on only women? Rape happens to boys as much as girls, and men are raped in much higher numbers than crime stats show. The FBI refused to even count rape when males were the victims until 2012! And additionally, any boy who has been the victim of Male Genital Mutilation is a rape victim.

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    1. I think the default position should be to believe male rape victims as well Laurie. Men should stop raping other men as well as women. You are right, men are raped in much higher numbers than the crime stats show, and er, so are women. The reason that my focus is on women, is that overwhelmingly, they are more likely to be victims of rape, I don't know where you get the figures for boys being raped as much as girls are, do you have a link to the stats for that? Everything I have read suggests that the probability of a man being raped or sexually assaulted, becomes as high as that of a woman in everyday life, when he is sent to prison. Other than that, once he reaches puberty, he is much less likely to be raped than a woman of his own age.

      Also, male rape charities take a different approach to campaigning and I respect their lead on that - I support them, but my focus is women. I don't tell them to stop focusing only on men or to talk about women too, because we get raped more often than men, that would be disrespectful and wrong, IMO.

      As to men (and presumably women) who have been the victims of genital mutilation, I think it muddies the waters to talk about them as rape victims. Rape is a specific legal concept, which is defined differently depending on what jurisdiction you are in. Under English law for example, it must involve the penetration of a body by a penis, whereas in some countries, penetration by an object would legally be rape whereas English law defines that as sexual assault. Genital mutilation is not rape, it is genital mutilation.

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  53. I'm so, so sorry that happened to you. This is such an important topic. Thank you for having the courage to speak out about your experience.

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  54. I was once on a bus, public transport, when a guy sat down near me. He immediately started flirting with me and I became very uncomfortable. There were plenty of other empty seats and he specifically chose to sit near me. I chatted politely for a bit and then I put on music and pretended to sleep so that I wouldn't have to speak to him.
    He moved a bit so our thighs were touching. My eyes flew open and I looked around the bus for help but everyone was minding their own business. I was terrified and wanted to scream but didn't because I didn't want a bus load of people thinking I was crazy. I closed my eyes and tried scooting closer to the window but his thigh was still up against mine. At one point I glared at him. He said sorry and moved slightly but a minute later he was back touching me.
    Thankfully the bus broke down. When we switched to another bus i made sure I was nowhere near him. I never made a big deal because nothing actually happened. Reading your article made me realize that he was pushing the boundaries. Thank you for writing this and bringing this issue to the fore.

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  56. Thanks a lot for writing this, it's really important stuff to get out to people, cause even so many nice people have such shitty ideas about rape. And it's been really helpful to me. I'm currently in the middle of trying to come to terms with the fact that I was raped. I've kind of half managed to accept it, I've been able to call it rape, I've been able to get in touch with Rape Crisis even, but I keep going back on it in my head and thinking but maybe it wasn't, maybe it wasn't all that bad. Maybe I'm exaggerating, maybe I'm just naive. I know that it was rape, but I struggle to trust myself. So it's been really helpful to read this. I saw a lot of myself in it- and I cried quite a bit :) I saw a lot of the same excuses I made for the guy who did it to me. And a lot of the behaviour that makes me stop trusting myself, like the fact that I didn't see it for what it was straight away, or that I tried to engage with the guy after it had happened, just so I could pretend to myself that everything had been okay. It makes me wonder if I've just started lying to myself cause I want someone to blame. It's really reassuring to hear that other people have the same reactions and thoughts, cause it makes it easier to believe that that behaviour, those reactions, are the rapist's fault, and not my fault for being a hysterical weirdo or something.

    Sorry, that was a bit of a rant, needed it out I think. Again, thanks a lot for this :)

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    1. Clopin, rant away if it helps. I'm glad you've been able to name it for what it is, our culture makes it so much easier to obscure it than recognise it and that's why it takes some women years or even decades to name it and process it.

      I hope Rape Crisis helps you.

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  57. thank you. you have put into words the thoughts i have had about my own experiences and it has made me realise that what i have had happen to me wasn't normal behaviour and explained my own reactions to it. for a long time i have made excuses for their behaviour and blamed my own actions. now i know i am not alone. its good to know.

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    1. Well, this blog’s been up about six weeks and at last I’ve got a post from someone who wants to tell me that I imagined it all. The reason I have allowed this to stand, is because there may well be people out there with better empathy skills than Lisa, who may be wondering the same sorts of things and may be asking themselves the same questions but are essentially decent people who don’t want to offend by asking outright. So the Lisa’s of the world, are useful in enabling me to talk to reasonable people who are willing to listen and engage, which is why I’m going to answer it, not because I think she’s worth answering, but because I think there will be sensible people out there who are worth answering and I think it's worth answering in some detail, so the post is here: http://herbsandhags.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/that-doesnt-sound-like-rape-to-me.html

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  59. Thank you for sharing your story. I truly think most women have experienced something similar to this. Your description of your emotions and reaction to what was happening to you really resonated with me. Many years ago, I was seeing a guy and we had casual sex a few times. The last time I went out with him, he wanted to have sex but I didn't. We cuddled, made out a bit, and then he forced himself on me. I reacted the same way you did... I told him no and to stop but I wasn't fighting, kicking, screaming, or punching. He had already entered me and we had consensual sex previously, and I did make out with him earlier so in my warped mind I just conceited, turned my head, and let him finish as I laid there, limp with tears in my eyes. As a much more mature woman, I really wish I had fought back and stood my ground but in my 21 year old mind, I did what I understood to be the appropriate thing at the time. So again, thank you for sharing this... you articulated my feelings on that situation better than I ever could and it's comforting to know I'm not alone on this.

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  60. Change up the situation some and this could be the story of how my virginity was taken (not LOST) nearly 35 years ago. I thought of it to myself as a "quasi-rape" since I believed that I should have been flattered by the attention I had received from an older man. What all men/women need to understand is that rape is not about sex or even desire; it's about control and anger. Your post has cleared the confusion I have felt all my adult life, (I was a couple months shy of my 19th birthday) and I can finally admit to myself that I was raped, I didn't "secretly" want it, and I didn't seek it out. God bless you for your courage and eloquence.

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    1. Glad it helped Diana. There is so much out there to encourage us to be in denial, it can be painful to come out of it, but it also needs to be done so that we can be free of it. I hope you get any support you may need.

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  61. I am sorry I posted the previous comment. I don't know what made me be so hateful, and think it was justified. I'm very ashamed of myself.

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    1. Lisa you're brave to come back and apologise unreservedly. Thank You.

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  62. Oh my gosh I cannot believe he had the gall to say that to you, the whole 'you already have' thing. Woah. Powerful read...i'm so sorry that happened to you. x

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  63. I'm so proud of you for writing this and so thankful as well. Although not to the same degree, I had something similar happen to me and it's been hard to define it as sexual assault. But your frankness makes me more confident in myself, thank you.

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  64. I would like to commend you for doing this. It is often difficult to express painful experiences to another person and you've now revealed it to the world. I'm sure this will help many women AND men to scrutinize their actions and will save many from the horror of rape. Thank you.

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  65. He was my boyfriend for two years. He never held me down. He didn't restrain me in any way. The first time, we were cuddling, and making out, and naked. I wanted to stop and he didn't. He forced my legs apart, and beyond that I just lay there. I told him to finish quickly. He looked at me and said "You really didn't want to do this, did you?" and laughed when I shook my head.

    We had consensual sex less and less. He ended up bruising me a few times, and my doctor noticed.

    He dumped me, and I cried for days. We got back together, and he tried to rape me again. I put on my clothes, told him it was over and left.

    When I got home I cried from relief.

    I was sixteen.

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    1. Shannancy I'm so sorry that happened to you and I hope you've managed to get the support you need to help you recover from it.

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  66. Thank you fr writing this. It's helped me see a few things. I've been reminded a lot lately of an event 5 years ago (I was 21), where a guy I'd met at a party shared a cab home with me, then decided to get out at my house. He wheedled his way in, saying he just wanted to hang out and talk. I tolerated him for a while, but then wanted to go to sleep. He again manipulated his way into staying the night at my place. I wanted him to sleep on the couch, but he came into my room and started kissing me. Despite me saying I didn't want to, he kept trying stuff.

    I should've kicked him and told him to piss off before he even got in my house, but you're right - women are conditioned to be polite and to tolerate men pressuring them. And I really did think he was cute. But then he started trying to make me do things I didn't want to. I managed to get him to stop by kicking him, but I don't remember much else after that. I do know that he tried to get inside me without a condom.

    I was assaulted in my bedroom, with my roommate passed out drunk in his bedroom nearby. I didn't know how to kick this guy out, he was so much bigger than me, so I had to tolerate him sleeping in my bed, until I made excuses and got him to leave. And then he still messaged me to ask me out the next day.

    I didn't like to think of it as rape. I always figured it was a dumb misunderstanding, and to be honest, I've blocked a lot of the details out. I don't even remember his name. But I do remember that he asked me if my parents would be okay with me dating a brown guy (I'm white, and he was Fijian). That was weird on so many levels. Why would he think about that?

    I've never told anyone about it. Who's going to believe me? I let him into my house. I kissed him. People saw him get out of the taxi at my house.

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    1. Loobelou, I believe you.

      We tell ourselves all the things we should have done, to ensure it didn't happen. When really, there was only one thing that shouldn't have been done - the men involved should not have penetrated us, without a freely-given, uncoerced invitation to do so.

      I hope you're OK.

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  68. Thanks for writing this post. It's helped me realize that it's ok to call the experience I went through a rape...

    Two years ago, when I was 19, I went to a house party with some of my university friends. We predrank at my (female) friend's house then went over to our (male) friend's house because they had a party there. This male friend was and still is a perfect gentleman, so I never thought that any of his room mates could be anything other than men respectful towards women. When we arrived at the party, I was a little bit drunk but still well in control of myself. When we got there my guy friend's room mate started talking to me, and despite my lack of interest in him I did the polite thing and talked to him (because that is what society has taught us to do in that situation).

    After a few minutes he asked me if I wanted a drink, and I said yes. That is the last thing I remember for most of the night. Going over the details from that night, I wonder if he spiked my drink. I woke up a few hours later to him raping me. It wasn't violent but I never gave him consent to do so either. My mind was still very foggy when I woke up. I think what woke me up was him asking me if I took birth control. I may have made a noise but it wasn't a "yes" so he continued raping me. A few minutes later when I was fully awake he asked again if I was on birth control, and that time I said "no". This may sound strange, but I am thankful that he asked again because after I said no he put a condom on. I could have gotten pregnant that night if he hadn't asked me again. After he was finished he went to clean himself up in the washroom, and I took that opportunity to grab my stuff and get away from him, without having to make any excuses for leaving.

    After I left I called the girl friend I came with as and slept over at her house even though no one was home because I didn't know what to do and didn't want to go home. I never tried to stop the guy during the act of rape because at the time I thought I would be called fussy or slutty or any other negative term for saying no. All I could think about was getting out of that place as soon as he was finished. I left feeling violated an in disbelief over what happened. I wasn't sure if I had given the guy any sign that I was interested in him (because I had blacked out and had no memories starting less than an hour after I arrived at that party). I couldn't remember anything, and I still don't.

    I haven't returned to that place since that night. I didn't want to run into this guy again which would force me to acknowledge what happened. About a year later, my friend (the girl who I went to the party with) was sexually assaulted at the same house by a different room mate of my guy friend. In her case the guy got her alone in his room and pulled his penis out of his pants and told her to put it in her mouth. She was very drunk, but thank goodness she was just aware enough to tell him no. Later on she defended the guy but eventually we convinced her that what happened to her was not ok, and not excusable. To this day I haven't told anyone what happened, but this post has helped me realize that my story is a rape story, and I am the victim and not to blame for what happened.

    This event hasn't affected my life to the degree that it has other women, but my heart goes out to them. I went through a one year period where I slept with men I wasn't interested in - probably indirectly as a result of the rape, but I came to the realization that I should only give myself and my consent to a man I could trust and was in love with. I am now in a happy, loving and most importantly respectful relationship that I see lasting for a very long time. I never lost my trust in men, but I have learned to be more alert around them. This article has also taught me that rape has more than one definition, and it has empowered me to stand up for myself. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

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    1. I'm so sorry you went through that empoweredstudent and I'm glad you're now in a relationship that is enhancing your life.

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  69. Brave and with great insight and clarity. My thought is that your daughter is probably in a better position than you were as you have more insight than the adults around you and have probably taught her more about healthy boundaries an self esteem that will help her. Way to go!

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  70. thank you so much for sharing this. it is only in my 30s, after a recent "real" rape that i am now coming to realize how many of my past encounters have actually been rape. i have had experiences that parallel yours in every way; the situation, the men's actions, friends' reactions, justifications. no doubt there are countless women who could say the same. hopefully sharing this story will help you heal, i know reading it has helped me.

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  71. Thanks for the article ! It really helps a lot when victims of any kind extend their experiences honestly, with an aim to enlighten the others who are innocent and probably ignorant about these issues. I am a guy and trust me when I say that this can permeate through every action of ours irrespective of whether or not we belong to a particular sex.

    I want to bring a particular perspective here. I strongly believe that laws cannot make us better humans, they can only tame us (like animals within a cage). For any law, there will always be people who are aware of it exactly and follow it because they believe in what it stands for. Some will know it well enough, to break through the loopholes (which might well be the case of the guy who troubled u). Some will be unaware of its diverse ramifications but dont end up exploited (luckily, by chance) and some others (like you) who also dont understand the entire implications and powers and limitations of a law and are the unlucky lot that might be exploited.

    What can and will make a change (irrespective of the nature and sub-clauses that make any law) is the ethics and morals that we build ourselves on. And thus i think the single most important sentence in your article is where u start off with "I guess all I can do for her, is to raise her to expect her boundaries to be respected ... ". But i think u shud extend this to not just daughters but also sons ....

    This is something that women rarely push hard on (like in the case of domestic violence in families). No child would like to see his/her mother being treated bad ... but then a lot of these children themselves indulge in such activities when they grow up !

    Mothers should definitely be more pro-active with a male child in cultivating a certain stature of respect for the opposite gender at all times. I believe that can tremendously change the situation !

    Thanks again for this wonderful article.

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    1. Thanks Ganesh. I think it's also very important that men role model to their male children, how to behave towards women. We learn what to expect of relationships from the adults around us, primarily our parents, so if fathers treat the mothers of their children with love, respect and kindness, then that is how their daughters will expect to be treated and that's how their sons will expect to treat their partners.

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    2. Ohh absolutely true and no doubt about that. I wrote it considering the case when the male in the family was not having the right perspective. Im sorry, i didnt mean to single out the responsibility on women.
      There is definitely no debating that the most important change required is in the man himself and thus his progeny.

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  72. I've been raped too, but because it wasn't a stranger dragging me into an alley I never told a soul.

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  73. Thank you. Just thank you.

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  74. Thank you for sharing this. Like many have commented, I see myself in your words and my own experiences demanding respect from my lovers. I really felt validated reading this because when I was younger, I had the same thoughts. There was no one to empower me or give me self- esteem or understand how we as women are abused. You helped me see things in a new perspective and I thank you so very much.

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  76. Mohammed you're a rape apologist. I've already answered every single point you've made in other areas of this blog and you can read them if you want but I doubt you will because you are clearly heavily emotionally invested in telling rape victims they weren't raped. A man doesn't have to be a mind reader not to rape a woman, he just needs to ask her if she wants him in her body.

    If you post any more rape apologia on my blog, I will delete and block you.

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  77. Also to tell a woman that she is almost entirely responsible for something a man did to her, makes it very clear that you believe women are responsible for men's behaviour.

    Which I find pitiable.

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  78. And to your second comment, I have not made that clear at all, but that's how you've misinterpreted it.

    On the other hand, you've made it quite clear that men are responsible for women's behavior. Which is equally as messed up as what you claim I believe. What I'm saying is that a women is responsible for her own behavior, and a man his.

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  79. Oh you are tiresome. A friend of mine offered to log in as me and response to your rape apologia point by point as I am currently on holiday and can't get to internet easily and conveniently...but then we realised that I have already told you that I have covered your rape apologist questions on other parts of my blog and you haven't bothered to engage with them, you've just come back to post more misogynist rapey stuff. So I'm going to delete it as I said I would.

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  80. No Mohamed, I've made it clear that I think men are responsible for their own behaviour. The man who raped me was not responsible for my giggling, my inability to push him away with any effective force, my instinct that to bring out into the open that what he was doing was coercive, would be more dangerous than to put up with it - but he was responsible for pushing his penis into my body, without checking first, that I wanted him to do that.

    If you honestly believe that checking that another human being wants you in their body is a sign of making someone else responsible for your behaviour rather than being responsible for your own behaviour, then might I request that you ensure you are never alone with a woman without an escort, because you obviously have difficulty understanding that you are responsible for what you do with your penis.

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  81. I know it's been a long time since you posted this, but a friend just linked it on FB the other day, and it was just creepy how closely this paralleled everything that happened to me in at the start of March this year, with just a few exceptions. The biggest being that when he asked me for my phone number, I couldn't find pen and paper, and so I never saw him again after he walked me back to my car.

    I'm not going to rehash the whole thing yet again... but just to say that there is one element of what happened to me that I hadn't been dealing with, something that he said, which reading your post forced me to deal with. Well, I'd thought about it often, but always just dismissed it because I couldn't accept what seems to be the obvious conclusion. I'm a new immigrant to the country I live in, and in the leadup to the assault, when we were walking together, and I was saying that I wanted to go, and he was trying to convince me to stay with him, I said "nei" (no) again, having already said it a number of times by this point (as well as english "no"s - pretty much everyone here is bilingual). But the "nei"s seemed to bug him more, and he actually said to me, "Don't say nei - say no."

    I couldn't understand that at the time and just dismissed it. And even afterwards, I just didn't like the implications of it, and just dismissed it as "he must have meant something else I'm not thinking of". Because in my mind, to him, it was just another date - one in which he didn't care whether I was saying nei/no or not, just so long as he got off (He even asked me "was it good for you?" afterwards, and was acting flirty the whole time).

    But the fact is, I can't just ignore that he said that. He actually had a preference on how he liked to be told "no". In some way or another, he was getting off on my refusal. I can see no other realistic implication to him saying that.

    Apart from that.. I'm still trying to decide whether the high rate of guys-overreaching-bounds is unusually high here or whether it's just everywhere. I was married before I moved here, ever since I was in college, with little dating experience before that, so this is all new to me. But beyond (while I was still married, coming here as a tourist) having a guy try to finger me while I was dancing, I've had some degree of intimacy or another with 11 guys. Of them, I've set bounds that were tested with 6 of them. Of these six, four fully respected the bounds, one raped me, and about 6 weeks ago one fingered me for probably around ten seconds while I was saying no over and over and trying (unsuccessfully) to push him out before stopping. So I've got a will-respect-bounds batting average of only 67% here so far....

    The rate of rapes at a particular annual festival here is so high every year that it inspired this comic:

    http://www.pressan.is/ImageHandler.ashx?ID=54a0a119-d53e-4465-b251-2088e62cd671&type=w500

    ... but I don't know if it's this bad just here, or everywhere...

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  82. (more -- too long for the last comment)

    And I hate being single because I hate having to put my personal safety at risk in order to date people. :( If I treat everyone like a potential rapist, I risk losing friends (nearly lost one because I freaked out because of something he did, bothered another by refusing to ride in the same car as him). But then when I let my guard down... things like what happened 6 weeks ago... happen. There's really no win. Guys don't wear "rapist" tags. So I really don't know what I can do.

    And I'm having to relive everything over and over because the Assange case has brought out of the woodwork tons of people among my friends and (now questionable) political allies who are trying to change the definition of rape to make what he's accused of not be rape. To hear people you respected try to claim that having unprotected sex with a sleeping woman isn't really rape because she let him have protected sex the night before.... and so I feel the need to debate these people, but that just leads down bad roads for my psyche. I have to just try to ignore it...

    Been thinking about going to the local rape support group. But I really don't know. I ruled it right out early on, but I've at least been thinking about it. But I don't know what good it would do. What's the point of telling another stranger? I can do that with strangers online.

    Also something here someone wrote made me think. I so wish the guy who attacked me in March was locked up... but of course I feel I have no hope if I went to the police, especially now, after so long, when I don't have any evidence that *anything* happened, let alone that there was no consent. But, if *someone else* was charging him, maybe I could testify? But I don't know how to find out if he ever is charged by anyone, except to monitor the crime section of the newspapers every day.... seems morbid and not conducive to healing. But I doubt I could just go to the police and say "If anyone ever *does* file a charge against this guy, I'll help, but I don't want you filing a charge for me...."

    Sorry if I'm jumping around between topics and rambling a bit... just what's been in my head here, letting it spill out.

    Thanks again for writing this.

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  83. "..my immediate response to him raping me, was to leave me with a fatalistic attitude to sex; I felt totally unable to set any boundaries. I felt scared to tell a man I didn't want to have sex with him just now, or just here, or like that, because I couldn't take the risk that my wishes would be over-ruled again and I would have to face the fact that I'd once more been forced to have sex I didn't want and that would prove that I was one of those women who were somehow designed for men to use and exploit, not like normal women."

    This is the part that is so deeply troubling for me--that somehow this is "natural," that men are stronger and can overpower us, that it's going to happen anyway and we might as well accept it, that's it what nature intended. This is what makes me feel like a shadow version of a human being.

    Wonderful, courageous post, and I take heart in the fact that you've reached so many. Thank you for writing it.

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  84. Wow. I admit that as I read the story most of the questions you mention came to my mind. I'm in no way blaming you for what happened, but I realize how normal those questions seem to me and I don't really think that's right. It is a very complicated issue, more so than I used to think...

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  85. I have not been raped, but I have been sexually assaulted by a woman in one instance, and by a man in another. My reactions to both assaults was so textbook, the denial I went through made figuring out how to deal with it long and troubling. It's made me realize that people cannot even begin to truly understand what others go through during a rape or sexual assault until it happens to them personally.

    As a sexual assault victim, you have my sympathies and compassion. Please lean on your friends and family for support. You are loved.

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  86. You are an incredibly brave woman.
    Reading this touched me so much.
    Thank you.

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  87. This article is the one that finally convinced me that what happened to me as a 16 year old was sexual assault and finally made me realize why my relationships in the following years (and until now) have been as fucked up and not like my peers.

    Particularly this paragraph: "It took me twenty years to face up to that. In those twenty years" but the whole thing.

    I really just wanted to thank you for sharing because since you posted this I have sought therapy for this and the depression I have struggled with as well. I still have only alluded to the incident to my therapist once but I am going to start dealing with it with you as my inspiration.

    Thank you again.

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    1. fish, I'm so glad this has helped you and I hope the therapy will help you recover as well.

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  88. How horrible he was. You did your best to handle a bad situation.

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  89. What an incredible piece you have written.
    I'm so sorry that this happened to you, and that you were forced to deal with it like that.
    You are a very brave and incredible strong woman.

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  90. Everytime I read this, it makes me cry.

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  91. We love this piece and are wondering if you'd be willing to give us permission to reprint it in a special issue of our publication Rape Crisis News? The next edition of this will be entirely devoted to survivors, and will include accounts and articles focusing very on survivor perspectives and experiences. This is such a powerful piece of writing and we'd love to include it. If you are interested, could you drop us an email at info@rapecrisisscotland.org.uk? Thanks so much - and thanks for writing this.

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    1. Hi, I replied to you via e-mail, hope you've seen it, but if not, the answer is yes of course you can.

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    2. Thanks so much! We did not receive your email but are so pleased we will be able to include your great piece in this issue. If you are able to email us again with any contact info we'll make sure you receive a copy. Thanks so much again for letting us do this.

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  92. I understand everything you are saying. I think you are a courageous woman who has worked through abuse and healed and grown out of trauma and exploitation. But I think there is more than one truth here. I read your story and found it heart breaking. As a 34 year old woman, I have certainly had many similar experiences. My first sexual encounter was at 13. Needless to say it was not respectful, pleasant, or even kind. But here is the rub. Rape is one violation is a violent world. It is a violation to have most of the world living in abject poverty. People use people on a constant basis. We are a complicated psychological species in a very morally dubious world. It is important that you tell your story so that young girls do understand that this is kind of behavior is a violation, but I also think it is important to acknowledge the reality that how clearly you lay down the boundary matters. If we teach girls to look a man in the eye and say 'take your hands off me now', they are perhaps less likely to be violated. It is not realistic to me to expect perpetrators to reform, or to not try to create the grey area that facilitates them. This doesn't happen in cases of theft or assault or fraud or any other type of criminal activity. And with other crimes, we do accept that it is useful for the victim to try to prevent the crime. Its not smart to leave your car unlocked in a dodgy area. Its not your fault if the car gets robbed, but you do enter into a different risk bracket leaving it there. It doesn't make the thief any less guilty, but wouldn't you rather just avoid the whole thing if you could? It took me a long time, and a lot of abuse to understand that when I am clear about boundaries, they are less likely to be violated. Its not a political statement, its just a responsibility I feel towards myself. There are millions of mixed messages out there, about sex, power, greed and permission. Porn is increasingly more accessible and bizarre in the messages it sends about what women want. What the result of all of this is in the minds of some young men is anyone's guess. But I think we dis-empower women by arguing that arming them against potential, and lets face it, likely violations is part of a victim blaming culture. Because it is a dangerous world. That's not scare mongering, that's observation and accumulated experience. We need to teach women how to survive in it.

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  93. Hi Tash. On one level, of course I agree that teaching girls to have very strong boundaries is a Good Thing. I accept that with a man who is willing to respect boundaries, having strong ones is enormously helpful.

    Here's the rub: rapists are men who are not willing to respect boundaries. Teaching a girl to look a man in the eye and say 'take your hands off me now', will not stop someone who believes he has the right to penetrate a woman's body because she flirted with him earlier, or because she looked as though she was "up for it". Putting the onus on women to have strong boundaries while putting no onus on men whatsoever, to not rape women, is simply not realistic because a) not everyone has strong boundaries and are we going to abandon those who don't? and b) rapists don't respect strong boundaries - some are turned on by trampling them even more than trampling on shaky boundaries.

    I don't know why you feel it is not realistic to expect perpetrators to reform, or to not try to create the grey area that facilitates them. You may be right about not expecting many perpetrators to reform, but what we can do as a society, is try not to create so many perpetrators in the first place, by placing all the onus on women not to be raped and none of the onus on men not to rape. As you point out "there are millions of mixed messages out there, about sex, power, greed and permission". We need to change those messages so that fewer boys are socialised to grow into rapist men.

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  94. I agree with everything you have said. I think we have slightly different emphasis, but no conflict. I also applaud you for putting the story out there. Any measures that open up debate or discussion around rape, raise awareness, and ultimately chip away at the underlying misogyny that facilitates its proliferation and acceptance.

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  95. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish I had seen it sooner. It has made me finally realize what happened to me when I was just barely 19 and a virgin. I have never called it rape until now and I am 42 years old. I had always blamed what happened on on my being young, innocent, and stupid. Now, I realize I was prey and systematically pushed beyond my boundaries until he finally was able to do to me what he wanted. I had very little dating experience and was flattered by the attention of someone 5 years older. At the time, I had never heard about date rape drugs, but based on my memories of that night, I can't help but wonder if I was given some. Most likely. I "dated" him for two years. I guess being young and naive I thought that it meant something to him, but all he ever really used me for was sex. Until now, I've never told anyone about what really happened. Again, thank you for sharing. It is both comforting and disturbing to know that I am not alone in this experience. I hope that young women will read this and that it will help them to recognize the signs of a potential predator.

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  96. Here's my take-while I am sorry for your tragic experience, rapists generally will not fuck with alpha-females who carry sledgehammers and shotguns. As an alternative, pretend to cooperate for a moment and then bite the fuckers dick off. Or introduce Mr. Sledge to the family jewels. Self defense, man. And I guarantee he won't doit again with a pair of crushed testicles. cheers-M

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  97. Fuck predators. I've traveled alone all over the country for years, and I've never been assaulted. If you aren't a victim, there are no fucking predators to contend with. KICK SOME ASS. Give off "don't fuck with me" vibes and people rarely will.This has just been my experience. And carry a sledgehammer. Works for me.

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  98. What you described isn't rape, sweetheart.

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    1. Yes it is sweetheart. Even the rapist thought it was. But people like you ensure that 85-90% of all rape victims do not report. Well done.

      Post any more rape apologia on my blog and I'll delete it and block you. You've got the rest of the interweb to promote rape.

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  99. There are millions of girls and boys all over the world who hook up just like that - a sloppy kiss, a drunken fumbling sex act in a park late at night, and so forth. Are all these girls being raped?

    So it begs the question, is rape dependent upon whether or not the woman enjoyed it?

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    1. It is rape if there is no consent.

      I did not consent.

      If the millions of girls you refer to are not consenting, then they are being raped. If they are consenting, then they are not being raped, they are having consensual sex.

      Simples.

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    3. Oh dear Shmiggen, seems like you've taken on the rapist's interpretation of "consent".

      That interpretation is based on the idea that at any time, a woman is in a state of consent to sex unless she says she isn't and that therefore the onus is on her, to prevent a man raping her and a man has no duty of care not to rape a woman.

      This is obviously an interpretation which is highly convenient to rapists but isn't one which most men recognise. Most men don't need to be told "no" to not penetrate a woman who clearly doesn't want to be penetrated, because most men are not rapists.

      I've discussed the "No" issue in this post here: http://herbsandhags.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/saying-no.html

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    4. Yes, girls are getting raped & guys are raping them. Thanks for spelling that out, even if you came to the wrong conclusion of what makes it rape.

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  100. There was me thinking that I was also to blame for the consensual sex my ex boyfriend had with me. Reading this has made me feel that I am not alone, and what happened to me (and you) was rape. I lost friends because of what happened, and they have remained as his friends. I acted the same way you did, when my ex raped me.

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    1. Sorry that happened to you Emma-Lou and I hope you're OK now.

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  102. Thank you so much for writing this.

    I have a couple of questions as I am not even sure what to really think.

    Is it okay for someone to push you into sex or oral intercourse once they’ve had sex with you once? It is considered rape if two people are married but one doesn’t want to have sex and the other forces them to? When is it rape when there is no fighting and screaming? Does that still consider rape or just “bad sex”?

    What happened to me I am not quit clear on but what I am sure of is that I didn’t want to; I thought I had made it clear that I didn’t. Not clear enough I suppose, I didn’t say “No” but I also didn’t say “Yes”. We had had sex once or twice before but this, and that was consensual. But this time I wasn’t in the mood, I wasn’t turned on; I wasn’t even attracted to the guy anymore. (To the point where I wondered why I decided to have sex with him the first time)

    I felt as though I had to, that even after I had said “I never said we were going to have sex” when he stopped at the store to buy condoms was clear enough. Instead he said “you never said we weren’t” and left to buy them anyways. I was sitting in the car thinking, its fine, I just won’t have sex with him, and it’s not a big deal I can just say no. I didn’t think when he offered me a ride home meant he had to stay and have sex with me first before leaving but that was what he wanted and that was all that mattered apparently.

    We started off watching a movie, I again though that I can just say no if he tries anything. I didn’t make any physical contact with him during the movie but close to the end he pulled me over anyways. I was uncomfortable and I knew that. He started to kiss me and I just went along with it, I didn’t say no but I also wasn’t very interested. (To me I thought that was clear since he’s had sex with me before so he probably would notice)

    I honestly don’t really think he meant it in rape way, and if I had actually said “no” he would of stopped. We were friends before and he has known me for a very long time although we were never close. I don’t think he even knows what he did, to this day I still talk to him through text but every time I do I feel like telling him how I felt. When we see each other again I fear that he’s going to want to have sex with me and I am just not going to say no. I still have no idea why I couldn’t just straight up say no. He only stopped when I told him it hurt, but he wanted me to finish him off anyways regardless of the fact that I was clearly not into it at all.

    I don’t know if this is rape but I know that I didn’t like it, and that I feel stupid for not saying no right away. I should have said no and just told him to leave even before the movie started. I was having a month of what I called “freedom” after I broke up with my long term relationship with my ex. I had sex with other people but none of them made me feel like this before. So the question is: was it rape? Or was it just bad sex?

    Since we did have sex once before, as well as he bought condoms when I was right there, does it still count? I didn’t tell him not to buy them because we are not going to have sex but instead I just told him “I never said we were going to have sex”. Isn’t that clear enough that I wasn’t interested? That I didn’t want to? I didn’t say it with a mysterious way where someone could get me to if they play their cards right. I said it in a way where I was questioning why he was buying condoms in the first place. To me that seemed clear.

    So the question is what was it? Rape or just simple bad sex and miscommunication?

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    1. It was rape. He made it absolutely clear that he had no interest in your boundaries. He wasn't interested in whether you wanted to have sex with him or not

      Just ask any man who isn't a rapist! The absolute miminum men who aren't rapists, want from a sexual encounter with a woman, is that she is "into it". You weren't "into it". He knew that and didn't care. You are questioning your behaviour, mulling over what you "should" have done. But he isn't questioning his - he takes it for granted that he has the right to penetrate your body whether you want him to or not and that is rape, although the men who made our laws, may not have defined it as such, because they made the laws to enable them to rape us and not have it called rape.

      Stop asking yourself what you should have done and ask yourself what he should have done. If it were the other way round and you knew for sure that you were going to physically breach someone's boundaries and they didn't want you to, would you have done it? So why can't you expect the same from him?

      I'm sorry it's taken me so long to answer you, your comment obviously went below the radar, but I hope you are feeling better about what happened and please know that it shouldn't have happened purely and simply because you didn't want it to and what happens to your body, should be decided by you, not anyone else.

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  103. Wow. Powerful. I'm not a survivor or anything, and in fact have a black belt in karate, but this post and lots of the comments bring home to me exactly how hard it is when you don't realize what's going on. I've been having trouble saying no to my boyfriend, who's the nicest person I know, I really do love him, and he respects boundaries well usually- but he has very little self control when it comes to resisting temptation. I think you've given me the strength to say no and talk to him.

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  104. Thank you for a powerful and eloquent blog. You've taught me something about myself today. I've shaken off the fact that I've been raped. I made excuses.
    However, nothing prepared me for the night the police knocked on my door. My youngest daughter, aged just 14 at the time, had gone for a sleepover, so she and her friends could all meet up to mourn a friend who'd died. It wasn't late at night, she was dressed in jeans and jumpers. She just had the misfortune to get separated from her friends, where she was preyed upon, by a stranger, who took her off. She had had a couple of illicit beers (but haven't we all). As soon as her friends realised she'd gone, the phoned the mother of where she was staying. With some detective work and help from the police, my daughter was found, trying to escape the rapists flat. The mistake, the police made, was to bail him...he ran. My daughter, initially didn't want to have a medical, but was urged to by myself, her sisters and the police. Finally, after appearing on Crimewatch, he was arrested, charged and convicted of rape. The judge had harsh words for the police letting him escape, especially after his sexually criminal past was unveiled. My daughter insisted on being in court (thank God he pleaded guilty, so she didn't testify). I was so proud of her strength, as we sat just feet from the rapist. The jail term began in spring 2010 and he will be released in 2014. I, obviously, thought this was a light sentence, but apparently it was a 'result'. So, from my point of view, I'd say REPORT if you can. The sad thing is, even though the evidence against the rapist was damning, my daughter had many of her peers turn against her, calling her a liar. So sad.

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    1. I'm so sorry that happened to your daughter Becks. And how awful that even though the rapist was convicted (and only 6% of reported rapists are) her peers are still so desperate to believe ill of her and bend over backwards to believe a rapist. I hope she got the support she needed to recover from this and knows that the peers who blame her are idiots and not worth her energy.

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  105. As a man, I don't want to congratulate you on 'coming out', but thank you for writing this open letter. It is a great article.

    However I do think your letter still privileges "the patriarchy" and denies women an imagination to better the situation. Obviously coming from your situation of having been raped, I can see you would err towards this, but I think you place the burden of autonomy on 'men' too much. As you say herself, when he (apparently) spontaneously kissed you, you felt mystery and felt your self-worth improve. So it had been socialised to both of you that women should be passive receivers of male attention and that men need to make extra assertive actions to win the affections of women. This results in some men genuinely unable to empathise with women or to envisage an equal relationship. This combined with a proven socialisation that assertive, boundary-breaking men are attractive to women making them unable to see the problem with rape. It also results in a great many women convinced, as you again point out, that it is inevitable and natural that they will have their personal boundaries broken over and over by men, so unable to say they were sexually assaulted until years after the event.

    I particularly see this in your final paragraph when you talk about your son "to know that if he is not sure a girl or woman wants him to carry on doing whatever it is he's doing, then he needs to ask her and respect her answer, because if he doesn't, then he may be a rapist." This sentence shows me why rape remains and will remain for the foreseeable future an insidious problem. You assume it will be your son doing the doing, making the choices, carving the reality for a women to follow. This is what leads, in some eventualities, to rape being permitted.

    The burden is on society, that is a society composed of half-women, half-men, to change itself to not privilege male assertiveness and female passivity. This is what creates rape victims. Despite the fact you deny it, your upbringing as much as his created you as a rape victim.

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  106. Thank you. Thank you so much. I am sharing this with my daughter, so she knows, too. Just THANK YOU.

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  107. I'm really pleased that you can look back with clarity on what happened, knowing that it wasn't your fault in the slightest. It really is madness that women are blamed instead of the men. It's articles like this that will help change that!
    Thank you so much for sharing your story with the world :)

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  108. I was referred to your article by an online friend I've spoken with about what happened to me about a month ago. My boyfriend was on top of me, asking me to have sex, I said no, repeatedly, he asked, repeatedly, I said no, repeatedly, he asked, I stopped responding. Two hours later, he was still at my house, and I decided to have sex with him, because if I had sex with him then that meant the first thing wasn't rape. I'm 16. I'm a CHILD. I didn't WANT to have sex. He knew that. According to the religion he and I both follow, we are not to have sex outside of marriage. I kept dating him for a few weeks after the incident, just like you started dating your rapist. The first time he and I talked about what happened, he identified it as rape and urged me not to tell anybody so he wouldn't go to jail. The last time we talked about it, right before he broke up with me, he said it wasn't rape and that I had made it seem like I wanted it. Several no's and silence was me making it seem like I wanted it. Of course I blamed myself. He was my boyfriend. If I had said yes, then he couldn't have raped me. If I had moved or fought back ferociously, and he still held me down, then there'd be no doubt that it was rape... but I hadn't fought. I merely said no and then froze. And of course, somehow, saying no is not enough to make it clear that I didn't want it.

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